Posts

Showing posts from 2012

Restaurant Reviews

I've been trying to enter reviews in "Opinionated About Dining" — well, because it's fun and I was hoping to earn a gift card. But their system seems to be having a glitch, so I thought I would enlighten you all! Maybe I'll still get the gift card (or you will take me out to lunch...)

Where We Are Really Broken

Like everyone else I know, I can't stop looking at my daughter today. I can't stop wanting to hold her close. I can't stop the nagging worry about taking her out, to places she knows and loves, because something might happen to her. And if that's how I feel, I can't even imagine what it feels like to be closer to the Newtown tragedy, or god forbid, someone involved with it. That level of searing pain is just beyond comprehension.

I respect my friends who are incensed enough by this to focus on gun control, on solving a system that is not working, and I wish them well.

But I will posit that this kind of reform is completely and utterly ineffective unless we take on the much deeper task of healthcare in this country, and by that I mean particularly mental health. Until access to all health resources, including mental health, is free, and easily available, and not stigmatized. Until people throughout the system are trained to realize potential crises, and empowered to…

The Post I Meant to Write Yesterday

This is the post I wanted to write yesterday, but then I got too caught up in righteous traffic indignation to do so. It's probably a more important post, but less ranty so likely not as fun.

My friend Laura wrote a really brilliant post earlier this week called "In defense of yes." Go ahead and read it, it's short and I will still be here when you get back.

That's why Laura is brilliant. Because she can say, in just a few well-crafted and evocative words, what I have been trying to express.

I've been oft-criticized for how much I take on. For agreeing to do too much. For (sometimes) putting myself out to do something for others. For not saying no.

I've been told, perhaps too often, that "Saying Yes is just saying No to other things."

And sure, often those comments are correct. And of course, I can't say yes to everything. And of course, if I do one thing it means I can't do another.

But I'm going to say this. Every time I agree to s…

Road Rage

Dear City of Saint Paul,

Anyone who knows me knows that I am fiercely loyal to, and proud of, my city. I extol your merits constantly, and in general I can overlook your issues (such as a lack of single-sort recycling.) But you have messed-up mightily, and you need to make amends.

Yes, it was a Big Storm. Not ridiculously big, but the first one of the year. Sunday everyone snuggled at home in their pajamas and made soup and thought "snow day!" Yesterday, we all knew it would be a little hairy. But TODAY? 48 hours after the snow? You've been ridiculous. I don't honestly remember the road ever as bad as they were today — so slick at intersections that people can't help but slide through, tutted and washboarded in between — and those are the snow emergency routes. The regular streets are 8" deep still in snow.

Various city folks have been making excuses all day, blaming it on the warmth of the roads when it started snowing, the cold that followed the snow, how …

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

#16 - For Beaujolais Nouveau — fruity and kool-aidy as it is.

#17 - For a child who believes in Santa.

#18 - For the newspaper. Much as the digital world keeps me up to date, once a week with the Sunday paper is golden. And has coupons.

#19 - For sleep. Wish I got more of it.

#20 - For all those amenities that we take for granted that others don't — food, water, heat, light, communication.

#21 - For our beautiful and gracious home, filled with things we love.

#22 - For an incredible Thanksgiving dinner spent with dear dear friends. It meant so much to us.

This Is Why I Love Finance

At a time when even Twinkies aren't sacrosanct, union-busting seems to be at an all-time high. Here are some fascinating posts by Mary Schaefle on the Minnesota Orchestra's accounting, as based on their publicly-released 990 tax forms.

Now you see why I find what I do so fascinating!

http://songofthelark.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/what-we-know-about-minnesota-orchestras-finances-and-what-we-dont-part-i/

http://songofthelark.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/what-we-know-about-minnesota-orchestras-finances-and-what-we-dont-part-ii/

More Grateful

#9 - For Beatrix's wonderful school, and the world she has there.

#10 - For the Winter Street house, as much of a PITA as it is sometimes.

#11 - For Krista, and Vote No pumpkin pie!

#12 - For the beauty that is Saint Paul, and the people who want to save it.

#13 - For free Punch Pizza, on a night it was sorely needed.

#14 - For Soup Night and the people that make it fun.

#15 - For the amazingness that is Give to the Max Day. Watching the generosity unfold every year humbles me, and watching the reaction from the non-profits is equally touching. Over 15 million dollars donated today, folks!

More Thanks

Because these would be dull if I did them every day.

I'm grateful for:

#4 - Chocolate. Specifically leftover Halloween candy. Especially when I have not eaten lunch.

#5 - Beatrix's music and circus classes. Wonderful communities that give her excellent artistic and collaborative schools.

#6 - The election results.

#7 -  My kindle, and the ability to read easily and voraciously.

#8 - The last bonfire and s'mores of the year with Patrick, Beatrix and Alex tonight.

Truly Protecting Your Vote

I really, truly, hope you go out and vote tomorrow. Even if you and I don't necessarily agree on everything political, our country really only works when everyone participates (see Seth Godin's brilliant blog post from today on that.)

But please understand that voting is the brushing your teeth of the political system. It's the bare minimum of participation. In fact, in twenty-three countries worldwide (including Australia), it's compulsory. By contrast, our national turn-out in 2008 was 62%.

The people I really respect right now are the ones making things happen. The ones on the phone banks, door-knocking, delivering food to the volunteers, doing midnight lit drops. They're the ones that are really making their "votes count."

And even more so, the ones that work between elections. The ones that work in their community, in the schools, in politics, in the arts — in any way they can to make the world a better place. They sit on boards, they teach their kid…

30 Days of Thanks

I'm incredibly thankful. And I am late, but hoping to catch up, even if I don't end up posting every day.

Day 1 - I'm thankful for my incredible family.

Day 2 - I'm thankful for sweet pets, which may or may not fit under #1. Mimi, Tiger, Geronimo, and even Belle, I am looking at you.

Day 3 - I'm thankful for new friends, which may be old friends in disguise. yes, that's you, the W family, but covers a lot more too.

The Cold Dark

We've hit that time of the year where it's ridiculously difficult to drag myself out of bed in the morning. Somehow, the cold dark 7am of October seems 100x worse than the cold dark mornings of December/January, due the the vagaries of snow and getting used to it and daylight savings time ending and all that.

Until this summer, Beatrix was a truly crappy sleeper, waking up several times a night, and I think my body is still also used to dealing with that. It seems I don't truly fall heavily asleep until 5 or so, which is especially painful on the many mornings when Beatrix wakes up before her "sun light" comes on and she is allowed to get up. Luckily, I have a wonderfully patient husband who gets her settled at those times and then makes coffee.

Still, it doesn't stop me from fantasizing about a "morning nanny" who arrives around 6:30 and deals with Beatrix until 9:00 or something on occasion. Those sleeping-in mornings seem like someone else's …

That's Why They Call It "Saint Paul"

Ten years ago today, I was inventorying the bar at Jeune Lune when Sonya Berlovitz rushed in to tell me that Paul Wellstone was dead. "Don't be silly," I remember saying, "you don't die that suddenly from MS." And then I learned about the crash, and left work immediately to go to Judy McLaughlin's house, where we all mourned Paul, and Sheila, Marcia, Tom, Mary, and especially Will.

I was out of the country when Paul was elected, but when I came back, he was the first national-level politician to really affect me. Part of that was his personality — giving out cups of water to runners at the marathon, getting us all to gather around that green bus, consistently listening to people and challenging them to do more at the same time. As much as Paul meant to me personally — and I know I was lucky to have that kind of access to a truly great man — he meant even more to me as a senator who truly represented his constituency.

And his family and staff. Will was s…

Consider Yourself

Recently, Patrick and I went to a lunchtime launch event for a new product. Even before the launch, I became a big fan of the product. But I was sadly disappointed by the event itself, and I think there's a lot to learn from it.

The invitation promised a "some delicious food, followed by an overview of ---- from ----, VP of Operations, where he’ll talk about some amazing things we have up our sleeves, and how we will make a mark in the Twin Cities." It was at a lovely venue, the event sounded interesting, I support the product, and even though it's hard to get away in the middle of the day, I thought it would be worth it.

However, once we got there, it was painfully obvious that very little thought had been given to the audience. Several representatives from the company were there, and were genuinely interested in our opinions, but I could see right away that what we said was not what they expected.

Strangely for a noon event, the food was rather minimal — some raw vegg…

Kiva

Image
I've long wanted to try Kiva, because I think the idea of community micro-loans is fascinating. I got a push towards it today, though, after having lunch with Nick from the Minneapolis Foundation and really thinking about leveraging resources.

Tonight, when Beatrix got home, we scanned the pages of loan opportunities. We chose the Philippines, because my friend Merv's family is there, and they were incredibly generous about taking us around when we visited there in the late 1990s. In fact, of all the places I've been, the Philippines remains one of the most fascinating.

Then the debate. Help people buy products for their store? Plant rice? Fish? But as soon a Beatrix saw Sunde, who needed funds to help raise her pigs, we were hooked.

Sunde only needed $125, and I think by now, just a few hours later, she is set. But there are a lot of other people, all over the world, who could use a little help towards their dreams. I am already thinking of loans to several other people i…

Shop Local - Because The Service is Better

Over ten days ago, despondent at the pathetic mom-ness of my closet, I finally called J. Crew to schedule one of their free stylist sessions. The sales assistant who answered the phone gushed "Lauren is the best. She'll call or email you right away to schedule."

I'm still waiting.

Meanwhile, I stopped with Beatrix at Victoria Crossing today because she requested a cookie from Bread and Chocolate after circus class. While she ate an m&m cookie as big as her head, I browsed the racks at Hot Mama. After I had had a few moments to look around, a lovely young lady came over, introduced herself as the manager of the store, complimented my daughter, and asked if I needed any help. When I related my closet woes, she immediately said "Can I pull some things for you to try?"

Since Beatrix was with me, I didn't have time, but she asked my sizes, gave me her name, mentioned another employee that could also help, told me the best times to come in, and wrote it a…

3 Weeks From Today

It's the time of the year (and especially every 4th year) where things start to get really exciting. My labor union client is abuzz with energy. Lawn signs give a snapshot of the view of the residents. The majority of the calls on the land line are polls (or sometimes push-polls). I always mean to skip the debates and get sucked in instead.

I know some people hate this. Several of my Facebook friends inevitably make multiple posts about how much they hate the election period, choosing to focus on its divisiveness, its inherent challenge, its conflicts.

But me? I love it. I love seeing friends post about the things they are doing to affirm their beliefs and try to make the world a better place — volunteering on campaigns and at phone banks, participating in GOTV efforts, holding fundraisers, and giving, giving, giving of time, of money, of expertise, of opinion.

There's a lot of things I dislike about the current state of this country, and a lot of things I am disappointed in. …

Invisible City

Image
Yesterday afternoon, Patrick and I took 90 minutes out of our day to have one of the coolest, most incredible experiences I have had in recent memory.

We were some of the first to try out the Invisible City project. A virtual public art event, guided by smartphone and leading you through the North Loop area of Minneapolis, Invisible City sends you on an interactive mission through a city that you never knew existed — even if you know that neighborhood well.

Seriously, we're still talking about it. We're analyzing the experience, re-living it, virtually retracing our steps.

Go here, follow the instructions to the letter (after all, laser-accuracy is important to a mission like this and more importantly will keep you from fubar-ing your phone settings and getting lost in the middle), and go have this experience.

To tell you anything more about it would take away from the experience. Trust me.

I guarantee it will change your life.

ID Me

Squashed

Image
This plant grew spontaneously in the back yard at Summit (and is kind of taking it over). It kind of summarizes our summer — strange, unexpected, kind of beautiful, and overwhelming.

But more to the point, does anyone know what it is? (and is it edible?)




College

It's moving in day at the small liberal arts college down the street. When I drove down to the hardware store this morning I saw groups of students sitting in circles on the lawns, harried-looking parents with maps pulling suitcases, and felt a general current of expectancy in the air. It was pretty idyllic.

I often wonder why I look back on college with such nostalgia, and why, 23 years after I have graduated, those moments all remain so vivid to me. I can remember so much from my classes, from the Arena Theatre, from parties, from dining halls and the Quad and the library and dorms and the laundry and our apartment on Belknap Street. This is even more remarkable considering that, like many of my fellow students, I studied abroad my junior year (cue even more memories), and lived off-campus when  I returned.

I'm really happy I chose Tufts. It was the ideal school for me — academically rigorous, but with a real-world element that encouraged me to learn and grow; maybe that'…

Summer Break

We've been trying to get every bit of fun into Beatrix's summer break that we can. Which has been really nothing short of disastrous for the actual work we are trying to fit in, but oh well...

Yesterday, she and I went to Fort Snelling in the morning, which was a great time. We saw the morning "parade" (hint: not exactly Mardi Gras), explored the various shops and quarters, learned about Dred Scott, played some kids' games, and had a great time. Did you know that soldiers in the fort in the 1820s ate bear stew and drank whiskey? Beatrix believes "They should have drunk less whiskey and more water. Water is better for you."

Today we spent about 6 hours at the Fair with Grandpa Kenny, and then after some naps went back for a few more hours tonight. I would call it a roaring success — we saw everything from the animals and endless trips to the Miracle of Birth Center to the Midway at night ("That lady just ate fire! For real!") to the kids' f…

All the Colors

Image
Beatrix has her summer vacation from school this week, so we've been trying to do some special things. We went up to the cabin over the weekend, and today we explored Caponi Art Park for the first time, which was fantastic.

I am most amused, however, by the projects she comes up with. Today while on a work phone call, I narrowly rescued her from microwaving a tupperware container full of wax paper and broken crayons — she wanted to do "an experiment, like in school."



Instead, I talked her into dividing them by color and making crayon blocks. I had been warned that they would not work well, but they actually worked great, and she used them afterwards to draw some "very famous art." She's thrilled with them, and I'm pretty happy as well.

Lowry and Fringe

I spent the last day of being 44 in very pleasant pursuits.

This morning, we had birthday breakfast with my dad at The Lowry. I had wanted to go since they opened last year, and was not disappointed. The food was good, but it was the attention to detail that made it such a nice experience — the menu for Beatrix at her place with crayons tucked into it and a bowl of goldfish crackers, the stool in the bathroom so she could reach the sink, the fact that the owner walked around to check in on everyone. Well, really the best part was the company!

After having read a blog post from earlier this month, my dad got Beatrix a bug collection kit, so we had to go home and look for bugs. I'm fully expecting the beetles we caught in the roses to be free-roaming around the house by morning, because the door to the cage is not so secure. Plus I have to leave the light on because apparently beetles are afraid of the dark.

Tonight we went to see Mu Daiko at the Fringe, a great show that we all lov…

Gah, Birthday

My birthday is coming up Sunday. And normally I love birthdays, but this one is weighing heavily on me.

I'm turning 45 (there I go, spreading personal information all over the internets), and that seems like a hard milestone of an age. When I turned 40 somehow it was not so bad — I was still kind of numb over losing my mom, but I was pregnant, and it was an exciting time. This seems just...harder.

I am thinking a lot about projects in various houses, and making places. I'm thinking a lot about legacy, and what I leave behind. I am thinking a lot about philanthropy, and what I want to be doing and giving back. And I don't quite know how to measure those.

Summit Update

It’s been a summer where we have treated the house on Summit like a summer cabin — there for the weekend, spending the rest of the week at the Ashland house. The goal was to get to know the Summit house a little better in our terms, to make it lived in and sense how we feel about it. Though we’ve not yet come to any conclusions, we have been getting more comfortable with it.
It’s also been a lot of work to keep up and do projects at the two houses though, plus rehab the new one. Today we had meant to go out and do some things — Paws on Grand, the Dollar House, art fairs — but ended up instead spending the day doing yard work with the fantastic help of Baillie, the teenage daughter of old friends. Baillie is a phenomenal worker, and remarkably can get things done while Beatrix prattles at her a mile a minute and shows her things, including the grasshopper she collected which is now sitting in a jar by her bed. At the end of the day we had cleaned out the two incredibly overgrown front…

Better Than the Olympics

Image
It's that time again — where people from all over the world come together and create something much bigger than themselves. No, not the Olympics (though let's face it, I might be watching those if we had a tv), but Songs of Hope.

The idea behind Songs of Hope is simple. Kids who come from all over the world to live together for six weeks, get to know each other, create music together, perform together, and grow individually and as a group, are the world's future peacemakers. To understand a culture, meet its people, share together, and create something bigger than just you.

This year, there were kids from over 10 different countries, from the US to Madagascar, Iraq to Vietnam, Russia to Columbia. They tour all over the state, from Bemidji to Waseca, in small towns where people may not have ever met someone from Turkey or Senegal. Their final performance last night at Boyd Parkwas absolutely amazing; they perform everything from songs and dance from their individual countri…

Needle and Thread

Beatrix has a security blanket that is her most prized possession. It's one of MY most prized possessions as well; my wonderful friend Kristin made it for her, with one side a quilt she pieced and the other cloth cleaned from an old housedress of my mom's. Every time I see it (which is often, Beatrix hauls it everywhere), it makes me think of my mom, and my friends.

The housedress side completely wore apart, and so for 6-8 weeks Beatrix has been walking around with an especially tattered blanket. This kind of came to a head the other morning, when Beatrix woke up at 4am with a terrible coughing fit and could not get back to sleep. Clearly, something had to be done.

Patrick gave me a beautiful sewing machine for my first Mother's day, but I honestly had not used it much. My new sewing area is on the 3rd floor, and it's very hot up there. I didn't have pink thread, I had forgotten how to wind a bobbin on the new machine, I did not have a cutting board, etc. There had…

I Really Am Still Here

You noticed, huh? Almost all of July has gone by and not a word.

It's not that I don't love you.

JUly has been an insanely busy month. All of my crazy June deadlines got pushed off into July. I've been working like crazy, non-stop.

Thought I've always thought of summer as "my time," this July has been especially hard. It was 8 years ago that my mom was diagnosed with cancer and my world fell apart. This summer has been an especially hard reminder of that, as we have been cleaning through things at Summit.

We've had never-ending projects, at all three houses, and I feel stuck in quicksand of just getting nothing done.

In many ways it's been a good summer, full of pool parties and events. Some great nights with friends, especially this week.

But I feel a little weighted-down, overwhelmed, unable to keep up. Thus, the lack of blog posts, or enthusiasm in general.

I'll be back. But right now I think I just need some time, and some rest.

Bookstores

Tonight, Patrick had a reading from Enough at Subtext, a new bookstore that just opened last week underneath Nina's on Selby and Western. It's got a charming, funky vibe, and a lot of great titles facing out and encouraging me to read them. The space is one that was, until recently, the home of Common Good Books, which has now moved a little farther down at Grand and Snelling; I ordered a book recently and picked it up there and lingered for quite some time, enjoying the booky comfort of the space. And, if you know us, you know that our our own home is jam-packed with books, loosely organized by theme but not so much so that you can't go in search of one volume and get distracted by another one.

I feel, however, guiltily sad. Pretty much everything I read right now I download to my Kindle. I've even found myself downloading books I have in traditional form to the Kindle, because then they are very light and transportable and easy to read. I like throwing it in my purse…

Butcher and the Boar

Image
My dad reminded me today that I never got to Part 2 of the anniversary post ... dinner.

Since we were staying at the Covington, we had originally thought of eating in Saint Paul. But we had the whole evening at our disposal, and we had already tried to eat there once and really wanted to try it, so The Butcher and the Boar it was!

We arrived early due to reading the reservation confirmation email wrong, but that just gave us time to hang out in the lovely outdoor beer garden (I wonder what the space was in the building's previous use — parking?) The beer garden is actually a perfect complement to the restaurant, a little rustic and casual, and very spacious. With reservations so hard to get for the main space, it's a nice alternative. Different menu though (some yummy looking hand cut potato chips served in a bag), and a MUCH more reduced cocktail menu.

Plus, on the way through, you get to walk over the penny floor. Hard to beat that.

We were seated right on time, and then ca…

Covington Inn

Image
Last week, we went out to celebrate our sixth anniversary. Our actual anniversary is not until this Friday, but we had a teacher from Beatrix's school who was willing to have a sleepover with her, so for the first time since B was born, we had a night away from her.

Back when I was just pregnant, I had won a Metro Magazine contest for an essay about places to go in the Twin Cities, and had selected the Covington as the most romantic B&B. The owner was so pleased she gave us a gift certificate to spend the night there, and we could finally redeem it!

The night was every bit as special as we had hoped. The inn (on a old tug boat) is incredibly lovely. Each room has its own individual charm, and the deck (above) is absolutely gorgeous. If you have never seen the view of Saint Paul from down by the river, make an effort to seek it out. It's wonderfully unusual and gives you a whole new perspective on the city.

We had dinner (more on that in a different post later), and then e…

Preschool Pics

Image
I met my friend Mandy not quite a year ago, when she took my profile picture at a blogging conference. I know a lot of wonderful photographers who create exceptional art, but I had never met anyone who captured photographic portraits the way she does.

This year she did the preschool portraits for Beatrix's school. See what I mean?

Do yourself a favor and get over to her site and book her. You won't be sorry.

Eversharp

I'll admit that I am hard on knives. I've reformed from bad habits like using them as substitute screwdrivers and putting them in the dishwasher, but I don't sharpen them with any regularity and my knife-use skills are likely sub-par. The 7" Wusthof Santoku knife is my most-used item, if only because I can be reasonably sure it's appropriate for most uses.

So I was a little bummed out when it got a large chip at the end of the handle, right above the rivet. Our 6th anniversary is coming up, for which the "modern" gift is "iron," so I decided to get Patrick a new one. Yesterday, I headed over to Eversharp knives in NE Minneapolis.

I walked in with the old knife so I could compare. The nice young lady who came out to help me walked over, took one look at my knife, and grabbed a shiny new one, presenting it to me free of charge, although I don't think I had purchased the original knife there. "We want to be sure you're happy with the …

Happy Hydrangea

Image
From my gardening posts lately, you can see what's on my mind.

Today I broke down and bought myself a somewhat expensive plant.

I've always wanted hydrangeas by the front steps. First I wanted tree hydrangeas, but they are expensive. Then, when the Endless Summer varieties first came out, I wanted those, but now I have them at Summit and they are kind of underwhelming. Eventually, I did have a small white hydrangea there, that Dale Bachman gave me as a thank you for hosting his daughter's wedding at Jeune Lune.

That hydrangea lasted for years and made me very happy, but this spring it just did not come up. I don't know if it was the lack of snow cover, or the work on the porch, but it was just gone.

So I dithered for awhile, and priced them out at several stores, and tried to see if I could move something else into the place, and then I finally gave up, went to Frattalone's today with a coupon, and bought the Twist and Shout hydrangea that I wanted. I carefully pr…